Semi-Retired Boomers: Would You Spend 20% of Your Time as a Mentor?

By Steve Ressler

Imagine your dream retirement – sitting in the Florida sun, playing some golf, drinking a mojito…and mentoring the next generation of government leaders?

It’s not as far-fetched as it sounds. Congress is considering allowing federal employees to phase into retirement by drawing a partial annuity while working part time. Under this program, it would allow Federal workers near retirement to spend up to 20% of their work schedule as mentors, and soon-to-be retirees would have the ability to draw upon partial annuity while working full-time.

Here’s some specific language from the hiring reform proposal:

“…allow Federal employees covered by the Civil Service Retirement System or the Federal Employees’ Retirement System to enter a gradual, or phased, retirement status at the end of their careers, under certain circumstances. This authority, in essence, would permit an individual to reduce his or her work schedule as the employee approaches retirement and receive income from a combination of salary and retirement benefits. This new authority would be subject to a requirement that part of the individual’s time would have to be spent mentoring other employees… (emphasis added)

The potential program has drawn interest as well as implementation concerns. 

I have seen three main themes emerge from discussions among the members of my Web site, GovLoop.com, regarding the proposed mentoring program:

  1. Too much or too little time? – Some GovLoop members worried that the 20% mentoring limit was too high, and therefore impractical. 5-10% was considered a reasonable time frame, with the assumption that soon-to-be retirees would begin the program early. Concerns were raised that it would be too brief of a mentorship, amounting in a “this is how we do things here” program as opposed to developing future leaders.  Just as dangerous as no knowledge transfer is the false appearance of knowledge transfer; without a long enough time-frame, that’s exactly what some felt the program would result in, if not implemented successfully.
  2. Who should participate? Another concern GovLoopers had was that it might be difficult to accurately target who should be considered to participate as mentors. We don’t want the next generation learning the wrong habits.  Claims were made that there is emerging technology to help determine which workers would be most successful at passing on knowledge, helping resolve this issue.
  3. Mentoring vs. Doing the Job – It was also noted that even if the mentoring program is successful overall, it doesn’t replace making sure an employee who is still in the organization knows how to fulfill the job functions of the soon-to-be vacant position.  While mentorship is often about developing future leaders in organizations, there are still specific roles and tasks that simply need to be filled, and new hires need someone who is there to guide them as they begin to fulfill the role for which they were hired.

How do you, as a reader of FedSmith.com, see this new proposal? If you’re a Boomer, would you take this phased retirement option? For others who would be mentored, do you like this idea? Share your thoughts in the survey and comments below.

If you’re interested in participating in a mentors program, be sure to check out the government-wide GovLoop Mentors program.

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